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Furey announces plan to expand telecommunications to rural communities; NL Alliance leader suspends campaign because of health concerns
The time for accepting table scraps from the federal government is over, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says.
“For our province to truly stand strong and become the job-creation machine it can be, we need a new deal with Ottawa,” he said during a news conference in Clarenville. “It’s never easy for Newfoundland and Labrador to get its fair share.”
Crosbie says provincial governments have had to fight with the federal government for decades.
“We’ve had to fight to get the federal government to support an equity stake in Hibernia (and) same with the Atlantic Accord,” he said. “The federal Liberals balked at the notion of Newfoundland and Labrador having a say over the development of our offshore, let alone joint management. But we fought for what was ours and now we are guaranteed to be the principal beneficiary of offshore development.”
“Our history proves holding your ground and driving a hard bargain does make a difference." — Ches Crosbie
Referencing the Upper Churchill contract, he said Liberal governments have failed to fight for the province since the 1960s.
“Our history proves holding your ground and driving a hard bargain does make a difference,” he said. “Rolling over makes a difference, too — you lose.”
For the last five years, he says, the provincial Liberals have put party before people and have been applauding as federal Liberals deny the province “our fair share in the country.”
The current equalization payment formula is “discrimination” against provinces that rely on resource revenue, Crosbie said.
“Offshore revenue is used as an offset to the calculation for entitlement to equalization moneys, (so) we don’t get any,” Crosbie said in a telephone interview after his speech. “That’s in conflict with the Atlantic Accord itself, which says we are supposed to be the principal beneficiary.”
And despite Newfoundland and Labrador’s geography, the amount of per capita funding the province gets for the Canada Health Transfer and the Canada Social transfer is the same as other provinces.
“These calculations for transferring money reflect the number of people, and as you lose people you lose money under these transfers,” he said. “We have a spread-out population. We’ve settled here at the heads of bays to be close to the codfish and other fisheries, and therefore we have an expense factor in providing the quality and level of public services that we are entitled to under the Constitution of Canada, Section 36.”
Section 36 deals with equalization and regional disparities and defines the “commitment to promote equal opportunities” and the “commitment respecting public services” for all Canadians.
“If you’re a small province, you’ve got to be mighty,” Crosbie said.
He called the federal government the province’s adversary, not its friend, and said what he hears from Liberal Leader Andrew Furey suggests he is “in the Trudeau fan club and afraid to rock the boat.”
A news release from the Liberals says the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted telecommunications being fundamental to “economic prosperity, social development and being competitive on a global scale.”
“Building on our government’s expansion of cellular service in the province, we will further extend coverage throughout rural Newfoundland and Labrador to help keep people connected,” Furey said while on a campaign stop in Corner Brook.
On Friday, Liberal Leader Andrew Furey announced a three-phase plan to improve telecommunications in the province. The first phase would be to widen cellular service to the St. Mary's Bay area of the Avalon Peninsula.
A news release broke their plan down into three phases.
Phase I will expand cellular service to the southwest portion of the Avalon Peninsula, specifically St. Mary’s Bay. Phase II will “expand Bell’s LTE broadband wireless technology in the communities of Bay de Verde, Burin, Burlington, Conche, Cow Head, Cox’s Cove, Forteau, Hampden, McIvers, Trout River and Winterton,” the news release stated.
Phase III will “use an investment from the province’s regional development fund and continued leveraging with industry and community partners to provide improved cellphone coverage and broadband access across Newfoundland and Labrador."
Furey said ensuring consistent cell and internet connections will help people feel safer and help the well-being of the people in the province by keeping them connected with loved ones.
The news release said they are nearing the end of a request for proposal (RFP) process to “establish a new provincewide public safety radio system as well, leveraging that work to support increased cell and broadband. Expanding the public safety radio system will improve the way emergency responders and government — such as law enforcement, firefighters, ambulances and other public-service providers — communicate with each other during emergencies.”
A representative of the Liberals said they were not able to give an interview on Friday.
Pelley suspends campaign
On Friday morning, it was announced that Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley would permanently suspend his campaign as the party’s candidate in the upcoming provincial election. Pelley was running in the district of Humber Gros-Morne.
On Jan. 16, it was announced Pelley had a medical emergency. He underwent surgery the next day.
“This was an extremely difficult decision, and one I put a great deal of thought into over the past days,” Pelley stated in a news release. “I’ve discussed the possibility of continuing the campaign with my doctors and family at length, and at this time we all feel that focusing on my health and recovery is most important.”
Pelley will remain leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance and will support other candidates.
Due to time restraints around nomination deadlines, the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance said it will not reopen nominations now that Pelley is off the ballot.